Yang says he would create safe opioid injection sites across the country

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew YangAndrew YangEmanuel jokes: 'I'm a new, mellow Rahm' Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations Biden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee MORE on Tuesday said in an interview with Hill.TV that he would invest in safe opioid injection sites in addition to legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing opiates for personal use.

“I was talking to a paramedic in New Hampshire who talked about if you saved an addict one week, you’d be back saving that same addict the following week because after you’re caught with a drug, there’s no place for you to go,” Yang said during an appearance on “Rising.”

“You go home and you’re still addicted and you wind up in many cases overdosing again,” he continued. “So we need to refer these people to counseling, treatment and safe consumption sites as needed.”

Some states, including California and Pennsylvania, have already tried to moved forward on starting safe injection sites, where drug users can inject using sterile equipment under medical supervision. 

Most recently, a Pennsylvania federal judge ruled in October that the Trump administration couldn’t block a nonprofit’s plan to open the nation's first supervised opioid injection site. And, earlier this year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that California state legislators reintroduced a bill that would allow San Francisco to operate a supervised safe injection site for three years. 

Those developments come in light of a new report that found that average life expectancy is on the decline for the third year in a row.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association’s report, these deaths can’t be attributed to a single cause, but one of the reasons cited for the fall is a rise in drug overdoses. Two in three adults who first use opioids when they were younger than age 25.

Yang believes the U.S. should look to other countries like Portugal to solve the crisis, pointing to the nation's decision to decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of opioids.

“Other countries, such as Portugal, have done so, and have seen treatment go up and drug deaths and addiction go down,” he wrote in his marijuana legalization plan. “When caught with a small quantity of any opioid, our justice system should err on the side of providing treatment.”

Yang said he also credits his plan to one high school student in Iowa in particular for showing him the realities of combating the epidemic on the ground, saying many struggle to get help because opioids are still illegal in the U.S.

"I thought if other developed countries had seen this would work that it made people stronger and happier and reduced overdose rates in particular then I thought we should do the same thing here in the U.S.," he said. "But I credit that high school senior in Iowa for pointing out to me what the reality was on the ground.”

—Tess Bonn